Researchers look for better ways to reduce memory loss in people with age-related disorders
Although brains—even adult brains—are far more malleable than we used to think, they are eventually subject to age-related illnesses, like dementia, and loss of cognitive function.
Someday, though, we may actually be able to replace brain cells and restore memory. Recent work by Ashok K. Shetty, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine, associate director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and research career scientist at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, and his team at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine hints at this possibility with a new technique of preparing donor neural stem cells and grafting them into an aged brain.
Shetty and his team took neural stem cells and implanted them into the hippocampus—which plays an important role in making new memories and connecting them to emotions—of an animal model, essentially enabling them to regenerate tissue. Findings were published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.
“We chose the hippocampus because it’s so important in learning, memory and mood function,” Shetty said. “We’re interested in understanding aging in the brain, especially in the hippocampus, which seems particularly vulnerable to age-related changes.” The volume of this part of the brain seems to decrease during the aging process, and this decrease may be related to age-related decline in neurogenesis (production of new neurons) and the memory deficits some people experience as they grow older.